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News Release: [04/12/2010]
Contact:   Amy Louviere
Phone:    202-693-9423
Release Number 10-437-NAT

MSHA announces final rule for high-voltage continuous mining machines

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Mine Safety and Health Administration has announced the publication of a final rule in the Federal Register revising the agency's electrical design requirements for the approval of high-voltage continuous mining machines. The rule also establishes additional safety standards to address the machines' installation, use and maintenance in underground coal mines. MSHA's existing standards do not address high-voltage continuous mining machines. Although this equipment has been used in underground coal mines since the late 1990s, mine operators must submit a petition for modification to use it.

Since 1997, MSHA has granted 52 PFMs - with specific conditions - to allow mine operators to use high-voltage continuous mining machines underground. Currently, there are 27 high-voltage continuous mining machines operating under PFMs in eight underground mines. Significant improvements in the design and manufacturing technology of high-voltage components provide for the use of high-voltage continuous mining machines with enhanced safety protection against fires, explosions and shock hazards.

"Compliance with this regulation will reduce the potential for electrical-related fatalities and injuries associated with high voltage continuous mining machine use," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "It also will reduce the need to file a petition for modification."

Key features of the final rule include the following:

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